Monday, August 18, 2014

Yesterday's Conversation

Me: Alexa, do you know what day today is?
Alexa (Excitedly throwing her arms in the air.):  Four days until school starts!
Me: No, silly. It's momma's birthday!
Alexa (Puzzled): It's the 17th?
Me: Yep.
Alexa (Excitedly throwing her arms in the air.): Three days until school starts!
Me (Laughing): Go tell your mother, Happy Birthday.

End Scene.

Thursday, July 17, 2014

CFP for 50th ICMS at Kalamazoo, 2015: Love Thy Neighbor?

Love Thy Neighbor?

Co-organized by Travis Neel and Richard Godden

Whether as a figure of intimate proximity, moral obligation, psychoanalytic anxiety, or a metaphor for a literary history that eschews the genealogical, the medieval neighbor has long lurked on the margins of medieval scholarship. Recently, Slavoj Zizek, Eric Santner, and Kenneth Reinhard have interrogated the uncanniness that the neighbor introduces into the social field, inserting neighbor-love into conversations in political theology as discussed by Carl Schmitt and Giorgio Agamben. In Medieval Studies, Aranye Fradenburg and George Edmundson have suggested a number of varied, challenging, and exigent ways in which the field of medieval studies can take up and complicate the injunction to love thy neighbor in medieval England.  While the figure of the medieval neighbor suggests the ways in which a medieval community might be constituted, delimited, defined, and defended, the neighbor is also a reminder of the danger, aggressivity, and violence inherent in establishing communities. Although the neighbor might stand surety, serve as a witness, be most likely to enter into a trothplight, or offer mutual aid and support in a time of need, the neighbor was also a figure of the uncanny: just as likely to appear in the assize of nuisance, to commit murder, to discover a corpse, or to threaten, violate, or usurp an individual’s person, family, or property.

This special session invites papers examining the status of and discourses around medieval neighbors, neighborliness, and neighbor-love. We solicit papers from all disciplines and national traditions. Questions to consider may include but are certainly not limited to: 
Who was considered a neighbor? 
What degree of proximity, care, or relationality was required to be a neighbor? 
What were the legal obligations mandating relations among neighbors?
How far did the injunction to love thy neighbor extend? 
To what extent did the language of neighbor-love extend to foreigners and enemies or to figures of cultural, religious, and embodied difference? 
What discourses were mobilized to promote, spread, and also constrain the love for and of the neighbor?

Please send abstracts of 200-250 words to Travis Neel ( and to Richard Godden ( with “Medieval Neighbor” in the subject line no later than Sept. 15, 2014.

Wednesday, June 11, 2014

Tolkien at OSU, February 20-21, 2015!

Mark your calendars for two-days of Tolkien at the Ohio Union on The Ohio State University campus in Columbus! Following the success of last year's Game of Thrones conference, the Center for Medieval and Renaissance Studies (CMRS) is launching another inquiry into the relationships between popular culture and the deep past, this time focusing on the works of J.R.R. Tolkien. I have received unofficial word in my capacity at the CMRS that the Ohio Union has been booked for Friday and Saturday, February 20th and 21st, 2015. We are in the pre-pre-planning stages for the event right now, but the overarching goals will be similar to last year's conference: to nest an academic conference within a larger event that recognizes, celebrates, and revels in the place of the medieval in the contemporary world.

There is still some debate over whether the conference will address Tolkien's oeuvre more broadly, or whether the conference will focus more specifically on the Hobbit and attempt to draw on the appeal of Peter Jackson's film franchise. Nevertheless, I would love to hear from folks about what they would like to see, do, perform, present on, or help organize for the February conference. We are entertaining ideas for the academic portion of the conference as well as activities that might draw in non-academics of all ages.

Again, this all remains unofficial at the moment. There is some chance that I will be far less involved in the planning of this year's event than my predecessors were in the organization of last year's conference. But anyone who knows me knows well that I will have some no-small part in the conference as the date draws closer. To that end, please feel free to use the blog as a sounding board for ideas. As information becomes official, I will be sure that it finds its way onto the blog as well. In the meantime, feel free to follow the OSU Center for Medieval and Renaissance Studies on Facebook or visit the homepage at

Saturday, June 7, 2014

Of the Wise and the Foolish Knights

     The following is an abridged translation of the Tale of Emperor Folliculus, or The Wise and the Foolish Knights, which appears in a number of English versions of the Gesta Romanorum. I am using Sidney J.H. Herrtages' edition for the Early English Text Society (EETS, ES 33, 1962), which draws this tale from BL MS Harley 7333.(1) I am translating the story so that it is marked for my own purposes (for reasons that anyone with any familiarity about my research interests will readily see), but I also think it is a fine tale to share more broadly. I am not yet ready to offer any kind of thorough response to it, but I would say that what struck me on my first reading was how seamlessly the moralitas moves to an allegorical interpretation of the tale without any comment on the elements of friendship, trothplight, affect, or law present in the literal level of the story.
The Beginning of the Nun's Priest's Tale in Harley 7333.
Image taken from the British Library Catalogue of Illuminated Manuscripts
     Folliculus was a wise Emperor, who reigned in the City of Rome. He made a worthy tower in the East, into which he put all of his treasure and precious jewels. The way toward this city was stony, thorny, and scroggy. Three armed knights were on the path to this city, and they were charged with fighting whomever should try to enter that city. Folliculus made a proclamation that if any man would go the way to that city, overcome his knights, and enter into the city, he would have an abundance of riches and jewels of all kinds.
     In the north Folliculus established another city, in which there was perpetual pain as well as all manner of jewels. The way to this city was fair, sweat to smell, and delicious to go into. Three knights were on the path to this city, and they were charged with refreshing, resting, and being hospitable to the travelers along this path.(2) Folliculus made a proclamation that if any man would go the way to that city and enter into it, he would be bound hand and foot and cast into prison, where he would wait until the coming of the justice in order to stand for judgment.(3)
     Now, in that time there dwelt two knights, named Jonathas and Pirius. Jonathas was a wise man, and Pirius was a fool, but there was great love between them. When Jonathas heard news that the emperor had established a city full of treasure promised to anyone who would enter into it, he suggested to his friend that that they travel there. Pirius agreed that it was good counsel. "If you are willing to do as I counsel," said Jonathas, "let me drink your blood and you drink mine as a token that neither of us will forsake the other, in well or woe." To this, Pirius agreed. And so they let blood, and each drank of the other's, and they were on their way.
    After three days of travel, they arrived at a fork in the road. One path was stony and thorny; the other path was specious and fair, set about with lilies and roses. Then, the wise man spoke, "Look. Here are two ways. Nevertheless, if we go by this stony and scroggy way, it shall lead us to the plenteous city that we desire."
     "Sir," said the other knight. "I have great marvel of you, for I trust my eyes more than your words. I see well - and so may you - that this way is stony and uneasy to go on. Plus, I have heard it said that there are three armed men on this path that will turn us around or fight with us if we go that way. Therefore, I'll have you know that I will go this other way, but not that way."
     "Truly," replied Jonathas, "if we go that way, we shall be led into the city in the North, where there is no mercy but only great sorrow and grief to all that enter."
     "Yeah, yeah," said the fool. "This that I see openly will I trust more than such stories."
     Then spake the wise man, "Since I drank your blood in a token of friendship, in truth, I would not let you go alone - regardless of what may happen to me in a time to come."
     So these two knights went forth on the easy path. And soon three knights met with them, received them worshipfully, and served them for a night. In the morning, the two knights arose and continued to travel toward the city in the North. As soon as hey entered the city, a bailiff(4) and the ministers of the Emperor met them and said, "Sirs, what are you doing in this city? For the laws of this place have long been known. Therefore, sirs, you must have the law."
     These men bound the wise knight and put him in prison. The foolish knight was cast in ditch. Afterwards the judge (domys-man) came to the city in order to preside over the breakers of the law. Among those that came before the judge, were the two knights. The wise man addressed the judge first saying, "Sir, I would like to make a complaint upon my fellow and say that he is the cause of my death. For when we were between the two paths - that is to say between the City of the East and this city - I told my fellow the peril of this place, but he said that he trusted his own eye more than he trusted me. And since he was my fellow, I would not let him go alone but came with him. Therefore, sir, I say that he is the cause of my death."
     Then, the foolish knight spoke saying, "Sir, he is guilty of my death, and I shall tell you why. You all know well that I am a fool and that he is a wise man. Therefore, he should not have so lightly believed in my foolishness. I would have gone the good way. For if he had only left in that direction, I surely would have followed him."
    Finally, the judge spoke, "Since you so lightly consented to his foolishness and since you, fool, would not follow the counsel of a wise man, I judge that you both be hanged."
     And so it happened indeed. And all men highly commended the judge that so rightfully gave the judgment.
A Latin manuscript containing the Gesta Romanorum compiled
in the middle of the fifteenth century, BL MS Harley 5369. Link.
{The Moral}
Sirs, the Emperor is to be understood as our Lord, Jesus Christ. The City in the East is the kingdom of heaven, in which is untold treasure. But the way to this city is thorny and sharp, requiring penance and tribulation on earth. For it is written: Arta et angusta est via que ducit ad vitam. That is to say, narrow and small is the way which leads to life (5). And on this path are three knights - which is to say the flesh, the world, and the devil - with whom you must fight and defeat before you come to heaven.
     By the City in the North you should understand as Hell. As it is written, Pandetur omne malum. This is to say, from the north shall be shown all evil (6). The path to this city, that is to Hell, is broad and is beset with many desirable things. Thus, many go this way. The three knights on this path should be understood as pride of life, covetousness of the eyes, and covetousness of the flesh. By these things, a man is greatly delighted for a time and led to the city of Hell that is full of sorrow.
    The two knights - the wise and the foolish - should be understood as the soul and the flesh. For the soul is wise, and the flesh is ever foolish and eager to do evil. These two are fellows, fastened together in well and in woe. The soul chooses the way of penance and may start the flesh along that path, but the foolish flesh, which has no mind for the perils that are to come, takes delight in the world and flees from the way of penance. Thus, in the time of death, the soul is bound in the prison of hell, and the flesh is cast in a ditch - which is to say a grave. And when the judge - our Lord - comes to judge, then the soul shall complain about the flesh and the flesh about the soul, but the judge - who will not be swayed by prayer or payment (7) - shall damn the soul for following the instigation of the flesh and damn the flesh for not obeying and trusting the soul. Therefore, let us study in order to tame our flesh that it might obey god and so that we might have everlasting life in bliss. God grant us that of his endless mercy! Qui cum patre, &c.

1)Harley 7333 will be familiar to many scholars of Middle English literature. It contains incomplete versions of Chaucer's Canterbury TalesParliament of Fowls, Mars and Venus, and Anelida, as well as the minor poems GentilesseTruth, and Complaint to his Purse. The manuscript also includes extracts from Gower's Confessio Amantis, a number of Lydgate's minor works and saint's lives, a prose Brut, and Hoccleve's Regiment of Princes. A nice account of Harley 7333 is given by Timothy Shonk, "BL MS Harley 7333: The 'Publication of Chaucer in the Rural Areas", Essays in Medieval Studies 15 (1998): 81-91). Link. The BL catalogue entry is also quite useful. Link.
2) The text reads "for to refresshe, and calle to gestenyng or to ostery, All that went by the wey."
3)"he shuld be bound hond and foote, and cast into prisone, and abide there unto the comynge of the Iustice, for to stond to his dome."
4)Cachepollys - The MED also suggests tax collector or minor officer of the law.
5) Matthew 7:14
6) Jeremiah 1:14. Herrtages' note suggests that this be read "pandetur [ab Aquilone] omne malum
7) mede

Sunday, June 1, 2014


     With the help of Liza Strakhov and a lot of friends on that other social media platform, Rick Godden and I have submitted a proposal for a special session at the 50th International Congress on Medieval Studies. Working on the proposal was a wonderful reminder of how powerful collaboration can be. It was infinitely rewarding to be engaged in a project that constantly reminded me (us) of how connected our work can make us - even as we approach a topic through different texts, with different kinds and levels of investment, and towards different ends. Much of the inspiration for this proposal came from reading a shared set of secondary works like Aranye Fradenburg's Sacrifice Your Love and George Edmundson's The Neighboring Text. Part of my own inspiration came from listening to Rick's paper, "Prosthetic Neighbors: Enabling Community in The Wedding of Sir Gawain and Dame Ragnelle," on the final day of ICMS 2014. But the real work of putting this proposal together was carried out through e-mail and facebook exchanges of drafts and provisional ideas, through friends lending their advice and encouragement, and through strangers reaching out in support of an idea and a project that might never come to fruition, to people who will have to seek them out with an infinite thank you should the idea crystallize into something like an event.
     I must admit that I was terribly wedded to this idea before ever considering it as a panel at Kalamazoo: I think the neighbor is a crucial figure of ethical and affective life in late medieval England and that we now have a terrific set of critical tools available for approaching both the claims for and resistances to neighbor-love. The time is ripe for thinking radically about how communities come to be, what discourses provide their continuity, where the seams of belonging betray former lines of rupture, how a community might be formed otherwise, and what types of ethical and affective lives might have been or be still to come. I was horribly wedded to these thoughts, this project, before I had such a vibrant, supportive, infinitely generous exchange that produced something more than my feeble mind might have dreamt.
     The final version of our intellectual justification for the panel can be read below. It is the product of many changes, many exchanges, and many thank you's. This thank you to everyone who helped us hopes not to be the final one.

Thursday, May 29, 2014

Crowdsourcing a Tentative Proposal for Kzoo 2015

Following my post on the Facebook this morning, I am now willing to put forward a tentative, provisional, drafty, draft of an intellectual defense for a session that Richard Godden (Tulane) and I (Ohio State) are proposing for Kalamzaoo 2015. Our hopes would be to have a presider or respondent for the panel, and the suggestions on Facebook were quite appealing (George Edmundson, Fiona Somerset, Matthew Giancarlo, Emily Houlik-Ritchey). As of now, this is what I would put forward. I am sending a copy to both Rick and Liza Strakhov, who in her infinite generosity has agreed to read and comment for me; but I am also looking forward to hearing the response of others. I am wedded to the neighbor as a figure of ethical and affective injunction, but I do not have any other particular ties. Even the title is up for re-negotiation - although I should say that the best alternative has to be Rachel Waymel's suggestion: "Won't You Be My Neighbor?"

Love Thy Neighbor?

Whether as a figure of intimate proximity, moral obligation, psychoanalytic anxiety, or a metaphor for a literary history that eschews the genealogical, the medieval neighbor has long lurked on the margins of medieval scholarship. Barbara Hanawalt’s historical inquiries into the medieval family (most notably in The Ties that Bound: Peasant Families in Medieval England) invoked the presence of the neighbor by demonstrating the ways in which reciprocal relations between neighbors often produced fraught and anxious exchanges. While one good turn would certainly warrant a return, one perceived injustice might just as well reciprocate retaliatory action. As Hanawalt observed, "If, in committing homicide, one is more likely to kill a person with whom one has close bonds, then the murder pattern among the peasants of medieval England would suggest that they were more emotionally involved with their neighbors than with their families. Intrafamilial homicide was very low compared to the number of neighbors who were victims" (257). Following recent work by Slavoj Zizek, Eric Santner, and Kenneth Reinhard, which has politicized the modern notion of neighbor-love as described in the western philosophical tradition, medievalists such as Aranye Fradenburg, George Edmundson, and Emily Houlik-Ritchey have suggested a number of varied, challenging, and exigent ways in which the field of medieval studies can take up and complicate the injunction to love thy neighbor in medieval England.
The medieval neighbor is ubiquitous in both documentary and literary sources of medieval England. The figure of the medieval neighbor suggests the ways in which a medieval community might be constituted, delimited, defined, and defended. Yet, the medieval neighbor also reminds us of the danger, aggressivity, and violence inherent in establishing any community. Although the neighbor might stand surety, serve as a witness, be most likely to enter into a trothplight, or offer mutual aid and support in a time of need; the neighbor was also a figure of the uncanny: just as likely to appear in the assize of nuisance, to commit murder, to discover a corpse, or to threaten, violate, or usurp an individual’s person, family, or property.
Our panel seeks to build on recent work presented at both NCS 2012 and ICMS 2014, where the figure of the neighbor loomed large. We hope to invite papers that will recognize the various ways in which the neighbor occupied a crucially important position between the individual and the community in late medieval England: one that was malleable, on the move, potentially dangerous, infinitely valuable, and ultimately inevitable. The recent turn to virtue and ethics in literary and historical criticism along with the rise of affect theory in literary criticism provides powerful methods for approaching the ethical and affective claims imposed on and by the medieval neighbor. Yet, some of the basic questions about neighbors and neighborliness remain unexamined: Who was considered a neighbor? What degree of proximity, care, or relationality was required to be a neighbor? What were the legal obligations mandating relations among neighbors? How far did the injunction to love thy neighbor extend? What discourses were mobilized to promote, spread, and also constrain the love for and of the neighbor? These questions have long lurked on the margins of our scholarship, and now it has become both possible and exigent to examine them. Just as there was no way to avoid the affective and ethical claims of the neighbor in medieval society, there is no longer any way to avoid examining the status of the neighbor’s ethical and affective claims in our scholarship on medieval society, literature, and law.

Friday, May 16, 2014

New Beginnings

For reasons that I neither can nor care to get into in a brief post, I have elected to undo The Birds' Nest. The authors, spirit, purpose, and url for the blog remain the same; but the content and layout will appear much different. The blog, which began as a project in English 1110 many years ago, has persisted with a less-than-clear sense of purpose for longer than it probably should have. For a long while, I had hoped that it would provide a digital space for the fostering of an intellectual community (a couple of communities, actually) that never seems to find enough space and time to flourish and thrive in our waking, working, wandering, wayward lives. With this hope, we attempted to transform the spirit of our front porches into a digital space. We transformed a simple 1110 project into The Birds' Nest, the nickname given to my home in Columbus which served as the meeting place for a number of scholars, friends, colleagues, family members, and visitors. The Nest, however, was clearly too amorphous, spontaneous, and fleeting ever to be captured by something like the digital cage of the blogosphere.

For a long time, I took the silence of the blog as a sign that The Birds' Nest had failed, that it had ceased in some way to be the community that it had promised, and that it was another sign of a kind of infinite and inevitable solitude that academic life was prone to mandate. This was and remains wrongheaded, on all accounts. The digital was never the right space for what The Birds' Nest aspired towards - a being together that could be responsive and present, one that might be embodied in something like a shared couch, a cramped porch, a board game on a dirty kitchen table, conversations interrupted by the rhythms of very different lives, but one that certainly demanded bodies to be present.

The Birds' Nest also struggled - more practically speaking - because who can say what it ever sought to be "about". Part of the concept from the beginning was that it would be open to voicing whatever concern actually affected the lives of those contributing. We wanted the space to accommodate the scholarly, the pop cultural, the intimate, and the range of affect that these topics invited. It was important to keep the content open in this way so as to insist that the demarcation between the personal and the scholarly was always a false dichotomy for those actually committed to the lives of the mind and the care of the self. The cost of this, however, was that everything was potentially sharable on/in/at The Birds' Nest, and as such no one ever knew what to share or how to share it. In this way, the silence of The Birds' Nest might have been a product of so many of its members spreading their figurative wings, but this explanation could not account for any particular silence, including my own. Rather, silence seems to have been a product of having too much to say and not knowing at the end of the day how The Birds' Nest could accommodate so many voices or how it would take up so many topics.

What the Birds' Nest initiated, however, has now become essential, exigent even (at least for me): both a semi-public space to reflect on the reciprocal work of the scholar and the self as well as a way to express why that work matters and why it needs expression. The blog became a site for remaining vigilant about crafting a place in the world for those (like me) who had been flying between the rigors of academic labor and the real work of the care of the self. Perhaps, for a while I wanted The Birds' Nest to be that place, but it could never be. That place, if it exists, must reside in the world. The Birds' Nest may have always been a fantasy of a community to come - one for which I continue to have great hope. But it is not now, and it is no longer here.

What is here, now, and hopefully with greater frequency is enchantment and wonder. The blog is going to return to its origin, where it was a collection site for recording moments of wonder, enchantment, and encounters with the sublime or uncanny. These moments take many forms and occur at different levels of intensity. They often emerge with the quality of absolute spontaneity. But they also have the potential to manifest in the most rudimentary and quotidian of activities and to call to mind deep affective histories. Enchantment and wonder also provide mechanisms for resistance, modes of fighting back against the impulse to live the impasse passively and to accept the inevitability of crisis. And in this way, the return to enchantment has been a long time coming for me and was made all-the-more pressing by the latest ICMS at Kalamazoo, where the shadow of a doom-and-gloom job market still looms large over many brilliant young scholars and the communities who continue to support them.

Enchantment is not a solution; it is not a remedy. It is not even much of a prop against the institutional forms of oppression, inequality, and violence that make lives unbearable for many. It is, however, a thread of hope - a sign that things are neither the way that they necessarily must be, nor the way that things are doomed to remain. Enchantment speaks to us of and from the different rhythms and intensities of a world and a politics that reside within, over, beneath, alongside, prior to, and on the horizon of the one that we currently occupy. And it would be still more accurate to say worlds in the plural than the singular because enchantment is not merely a transcendental move to some higher spiritual or affective plane; it is a bursting forth of life-worlds (often but not always affective) whose calling forth needs only to be recognized. What enchantment does is to call to us: to call us to a reconfiguration of relationality, affect, and ethics. What enchantment does is to work differently. What enchantment does is to to re-situate us by dislodging us from our conventional relationships with bodies, objects, and affects. What enchantment does is to give us pause. What enchantment does is to disrupt business as usual. What enchantment does is to remind us that we can be enchanted and that we, ourselves, are enchanting.

By way of closing and beginning again, I want to share a recent moment of enchantment and to give a small, unrepresentative example of what might come in this return to enchantment:

On the way home from Eliana's last soccer practice last night, we drove by the tennis courts behind the library where there has been an adult tennis class for the past few evenings. Eliana recalled to me how intently she had watched this practice when we were at the adjacent baseball field the previous Tuesday night for Alexa's softball practice. She and I had been playing with her soccer ball while her sister practiced with her team. After a while, Eliana lost interest in the soccer playing and sat by the fence to watch the men and women learn to serve the tennis ball. The skill level of these players was quite uneven - some were clearly very good, others were hitting the ball beyond the court and over the fence to where Eliana and I were sitting. She tried at first to throw the ball over the fence a few times but could not get the right hight-to-distance ratio to clear the fence. As I started to approach, she noticed a tiny gap at the bottom of the fence where one of the links did not reach as far down as the others. She squeezed the ball through the small opening and to the lady on the other side of the fence. Then, she turned to me with a smile beaming across her face. By the end of Alexa's practice, Ela had retrieved at last two more stray serves from the tennis court and had managed to throw them both over the fence as she had initially tried and failed to do with the first ball. As we drove by the courts on Thursday night, she was clearly concerned about who might fetch the errant balls served over the tennis court fence:

Eliana from the backseat:  Daddy, remember when I got those balls for that girl?
Me driving:    Uh-huh, I do.
Eliana still looking out the window:     I threw it over that fence with my arms. My arms are so                    strong.
Me:   Yep. You did a good job.
Eliana:   But the other one, I didn't need to use my arms. I used my brain. It didn't need to put it                over the fence. It could go under. (proud laughter)
Me (trying to catch her eyes in the mirror hanging from the rear-view): Yeah, that was really                      clever. You are so clever.
Eliana (looking out the window again):  Yeah, there are always more than one ways of doing a
            thing. I thought it had to go hard over but it was much more easier to put it under the                   fence with my brain.
Me:     That's a very smart thought, honey. There is often more than one way to do something.
Eliana: Yeah, I know. I always like to think of ways to do things different.

I know it sounds like a simple exchange about something completely obscure (a child's memory about returning tennis balls to complete strangers); but in her account of the event, Eliana revealed a mode of thinking that often escapes the best of us:  there is more than one way to do a thing. She did not reach this conclusion by correctly solving an algebra equation by using the wrong proof or skipping two steps to arrive at the same answer; she reached her lesson because her five year-old arms could not initially negotiate the size and proximity of the fence in front of her. I remember well when the lesson "there is more than one way to solve a problem" was drilled into my head: it was in an algebra class when the instructor would insist on doing things "her way" only to be shown again and again (not by me) that other methods could generate the same solution, then again on the basketball court as our coach tried in vain to get us to adapt the offense to suit our needs, then again in trigonometry when I correctly solved a problem in fifteen steps (very sophisticated steps I might add!) that only required three, and then basically every time the girls and I attempt to do a craft at home and realize that I do not own the right tool, material, or crafty-know-how to produce what we are supposed to be making. Luckily, there is more than one way to do a thing. And luckily, I have a five year-old daughter who reminds me also of the ways in which parents/teachers are often in the position of being instructed by their children/students.

It was incredible to hear her articulate such wisdom. It was enchanting to be reminded that sometimes we teach our children best when we sit still, keep quite, refuse to intervene, and listen to how wise they have grown. As Ela told her story in the car last night, I began to regret having gotten up to help her on Tuesday. I had no idea what she was about to discover then: that there was a hole in the fence, that there was more than one way to the other side, and that her daddy was smiling right behind her and laughing with her when she figured it all out.